For the second consecutive season, No. 15 Clemson and Valerie Cagle eliminated No. 2 Virginia Tech from the ACC Softball Tournament.
The Clemson right-hander threw a complete game 4-hitter to beat the Hokies 4-1 Friday afternoon and send the Tigers to the ACC Championship game against Florida State. The Tigers also eliminated the Hokies from last year’s tournament when Cagle threw a 3-hit shutout in a 2-0 win.
“We ran into a Super Regional-type team today and came up a little short,” Virginia Tech head coach Pete D’Amour told Tech Sideline after the game. “Emma [Lemley] gave us a chance to win, like she has all year. Offensively, we hit some balls hard, but we never really threatened with any type of power.”
The game was the second in two days where the VT offense struggled. The top-seeded Hokies only managed two runs on five hits Thursday in a 2-1 win over Syracuse.
Tech’s lone run came in the sixth inning when a fielder’s choice from Emma Ritter drove in Mackenzie Lawter, who had singled and moved to third on a single by Cameron Fagan. And although the Hokies only struck out twice on Friday, they only forced Cagle to throw 74 pitches, grounding out 12 times.
“From here on out, we’ll have to swing with better intent to drive balls for extra base hits,” D’Amour said. “We can’t be content with just putting balls in play at this stage in the season.”
Lemley (15-6) started the game in the circle for VT and although she only surrendered five hits, two were home runs from the Tigers’ Alia Logoleo, which gave Cagle all the support she needed. Lemley walked two and struck out six in her ACC Tournament debut.
One bright spot for the Hokies was senior catcher Mackenzie Lawter, who tied the all-time Virginia Tech record for runners thrown out stealing with this bullet to nail Clemson’s Mackenzie Clark in the first inning. It was her 37th runner caught stealing, tying the record held for 17 years by Megan Evans.
“Mackenzie is a player that embodies what our softball program is and the type of player I look for,” D’Amour said. “She’s hard working, accountable, never complains, a great teammate, wants to win, always smiling whether she’s playing well or not, and loves Virginia Tech. I’m proud of her.”
The Hokies now head back to Blacksburg where they will await the NCAA Selection Show Sunday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. They are currently No. 2 in the RPI and are expected to be awarded a top-eight seed, meaning they would host both Regionals and Super Regionals at Tech Softball Park, should they advance.